Over the next 4 weeks of election campaigning, Our Island will be putting forward a series of policy statements setting out their objectives for the new Isle of Wight Council – should they be elected on 6th May.
The group say they are conscious that Council finances are at ‘an all-time low’, so proposals are being put forward for changes that do not require great expense but which will create financial capacity to enable the Isle of Wight Council to do things.
Our Island’s primary aim will be to restructure the Isle of Wight Council to create a new body that is financially sustainable and able to operate in the 21st century. The Council was established in its present form in 1994 when local authority funding was very different.
Jonathan Bacon, Our Island Candidate for Brading and St Helens, says:
“We need to redesign and reshape the Council. The current model simply doesn’t work. In the last four years we have seen Council Tax increase by 20% and charges for Council services increase by 25%. A lot of the money we pay goes to support out of date management structures and unnecessary bureaucracy. Each year we have been required to give more and more money to the Council and have received less and less in return.
“The last year has shown that our front line staff are key to achieving positive progress and supporting our residents and businesses. If we create a new leaner Council structure that keeps frontline staff in place while getting rid of unnecessary management and procedures, then we create capacity to enable the Council to act positively for our local community.
“An analysis of information available on the Council’s website shows that Council officers in the top 40 jobs take home salaries totalling £2,925,848. That is the equivalent of around £75,000 each or 1488 Band D Council Tax payments. We need to ask if this represents value for money or whether that money can be better spent on more pressing needs such as helping young people into employment, supporting mental health and assisting businesses to recover after the pandemic. We will therefore start the restructuring process by undertaking a full cost benefit analysis of our Council structure.”
A key part of restructuring the Council is the need to improve Council decision making. We need a system that can make informed decisions which involve and accord with the wishes of local businesses and residents. Transparency and openness need to mean something and not just be words that are trotted out without any intention of adhering to those principles.
“In order to facilitate informed discussion and decision making and to get away from political bickering, Council Committees should bring in experts in the issues they are dealing with as well as bringing in independent people to chair those Committees.
“We will also work much more closely with Parish and Town Councils. These bodies are much better placed to deal with many local issues, so they should be given the responsibility and resources to help them do this, as well as the ability to raise income. We must cease the recent practice of the Isle of Wight Council simply offloading liabilities onto the parishes, but failing to pass over the supporting resources.
“Councils should work with residents and, as such, take on board their views, however current consultation processes are woefully inadequate and fail to engage with people. As a result little or no information of any use is gathered and the Council generally proceeds to do what it wants anyway while claiming public support which did not exist. We will find a better way to engage and involve our residents and businesses, and more effective ways of consulting with them.
“For these and many more reasons we will set out in the coming weeks, Island residents should vote for change on 6th May.”